I really dug the vibe at Elephant and Castle. It felt simultaneously British and American, and was quiet on a Friday night, which is nice when you’re not 22 and you don’t want to shout to be heard. The seats, American booth style, were comfy. And it’s on Pennsylvania Avenue, which is great, because you can go and say hi to the White House and walk down towards the lit up Capitol, and remind yourself once again how lucky you are to be living in DC. It’s also about one minute away from Barnes and Noble, always a pleasure to pop into and browse the magazines and look longingly at the journals, and pick up one with inexplicably seems to have a Ryan Gosling theme (for a friend, honest).
So it would be great if I could report that the food is yummy and the wine is delicious, and I had, all in all, found my new favourite place. Well, the wine was perfectly passable, at least the Pinot Grigio that I had. It was, by the way, the only European wine on the menu, which seems odd for a British-themed pub (as did the American sports on the big screens, but then I suppose it was the middle of the night in the UK when we were there – probably not much “soccer” being played). There was Guinness, though, and a vast array of British ales and beers.
The food, though, was not great. I admit that fish and chips was perhaps a risk, and one that I had so far resolutely refused to take. Americans (or any non-Brits) trying to do British food did not seem like it could end well. But this place prides itself on doing British food well, so what the heck. And it was okay. Maybe more than okay. The fries – I was not quite idealistic enough to expect or even hope for British-style chips – were not the best I’ve ever had, but neither were they the worst, though they may have been the worst of the more-upscale-DC-places. The fish almost tasted like British fish ‘n’ chips fish; almost, but not quite. And it certainly didn’t have the yummy crispy batter that I miss.
I didn’t finish my fries, because I’d seen the dessert menu. As well as Big Ben brownies (a pathetic attempt at making THE quintessential American dessert sound vaguely British), it featured Baileys cheesecake. I love Baileys, and I love cheesecake. How could I not?
Well, it wasn’t great cheesecake. It didn’t taste of very much at all, certainly not of any discernible Baileys. It didn’t even have that lovely fluffy consistency you get sometimes, which in itself is enough to make up for lack of taste – though cheesecakes that are fluffy tend also to be delicious, because made by expert hands.
I didn’t finish it. I never don’t finish my food.
Sorry, Elephant and Castle. I had high hopes for you, but I can’t in all good conscience award you more than a 6/10. Oh, go on, a 6.5/10, because of the location, the vibe, and the comfy seating, and because you treated me like a grown-up when I asked for wine and did not ask me to prove I was in my mid-thirties.